Everything’s coming up Barbie this summer, and for furnituristas, even if you don’t see the Barbie movie, I urge you to watch the eight-minute Architectural Digest video narrated by Whitney Mallett, who cowrote Barbie Dreamhouse: An Architectural Survey. The video is a totally fun and super informative showcase of how four Barbie dreamhomes from 1962 to the present are reflections of their eras.
1962. This Barbie dreamhouse is made of cardboard, is single-story and has a flat roof. It’s very modern for its time and, as Mallett explains, the furniture has clean lines, very mid-century. She says the daybed is reminiscent of the one designed by George Nelson for Herman Miller. There’s no kitchen! This is a dreamhouse that reflects the cultural change happening at the time as middle-class women began to have careers. Barbie is single, a homeowner and went to a state college based on the pennants on the wall in the living room.
1979. Mallett describes this house as “plastic and fantastic” and features big skylights and balconies. This is an A-frame house, designed like a ski chalet reflecting the trend of the time for people to acquire second homes, often lake cabins. Mallett explains that the pointed roofline begins to show up in residential communities during this time. The furnishings and appliances are very ’70s in color – earthtones with harvest yellow and avocado green prevailing. The furnishings are comfortable and soft.
1990. Barbie’s dreamhouse has gotten much larger — it is now called the Magical Mansion and is four feet wide. Reflective of its time, Mallett says this is basically a two-story Colonial that, like the increasingly larger suburban homes being built at the time, is a mix-up of various architectural styles. Its design is also a return to a traditional dollhouse featuring floral wallpaper and furnishings and Queen Anne and Chippendale chairs. This dreamhouse also represents the immersion of Barbie in all things pink that began around 1977 when Mattel wanted to differentiate from competitors and make the Barbie section of toy stores easily recognizable by color.
2021. The Barbie dreamhouse of our current era is a return to modernism. The house is very large, very California, as Mallett describes. The pink is a sportier pink for an active single woman who does a lot of entertaining. The house features an infinity pool, modular furniture and a slide(!). There is also an elevator large enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Mallett describes it as a house built for the Instagram era we live in now.
What’s ahead? My guess is the next Barbie dreamhouse will be designed to survive climate change with a whole house generator and a safe room. I’m sure there will be a focus on biophilic design and of course the mattresses and furniture will contain CertiPUR-US® certified foam to improve indoor air quality!
“Barbie Historian Breaks Down The Dreamhouse Evolution (1962–Now)” is episode 21 from season 1 of Architectural Digest’s The Blueprint Show.